Carnegie Mellon University

9/11, Tolerance & Mutual Respect


9/11, Tolerance & Mutual Respect

Carnegie Mellon University President Jared L. Cohon sent the following email to all CMU students, faculty and staff today (Friday, Sept. 10) in remembrance of 9/11 and to reaffirm the university's commitment to tolerance and mutual respect.

Dear Members of the Carnegie Mellon Community:

As we approach the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington, I write to ask you to join me in reaffirming our shared commitment to tolerance and mutual respect. It is always fitting to reflect on what we stand for; it is especially so at this time when there seems to be so much anger and intolerance in the air, including in the United States.

Carnegie Mellon is a non-sectarian, global university that welcomes people from all cultures and religions. Indeed, our diversity, including religious diversity, is a source of strength and pride for all of us. Over the last ten years, we have seen notable growth in the number of our international students, faculty, staff, and alumni, including a marked increase of Muslims in our Pittsburgh student population. The community has embraced these students, and the university has provided accommodations, within our space and resource limitations, to allow practicing Muslims to observe their faith's prayer requirements and strictures on food. Moreover, six years ago, we opened an undergraduate campus in Doha, Qatar, believing in the role higher education must play in peacefully bridging the western and Islamic-Arab worlds. I am pleased that the campus has enjoyed wide acceptance and support in Doha, as well as throughout the Middle East and the global Carnegie Mellon community.

Most of our Muslim students in Pittsburgh are citizens of other countries who came to America, many for the first time, to study at Carnegie Mellon. As the debate has raged over the proposed Islamic Center near the former World Trade Center in New York and as we hear news reports about a pastor in Florida who is promoting the burning of the Koran on 9/11, I have tried to imagine how I would feel if I were a Muslim, especially from another country. It cannot be a comfortable feeling. 

I am not writing to insert myself into disputes about religion, nor do I wish to enter the political fray over issues like the Islamic Center at Ground Zero. My main purpose is to say unequivocally: You — our students, staff, faculty and alumni — are welcome here. We respect and value creative people of intelligence with a passion for what we do at Carnegie Mellon — regardless of their nationality or faith.

September 11, 2001, was an awful day. Thousands of innocent people were killed. Among them were seven Carnegie Mellon alumni. We grieved and still grieve for those who lost their lives in the Twin Towers, in the Pentagon and on Flight 93. On the Pittsburgh campus, there is a tree planted on the Cut, next to the tennis courts, in memory of our alumni who died that day. Accompanying it is a plaque with their names and a poem, written by Professor Jim Daniels, which was read aloud on the day we planted the tree, November 7, 2001.

In keeping with our tradition, tomorrow morning, September 11, a bagpiper will play at the Fence on the Pittsburgh campus at 8:45 a.m., 9:03 a.m., 9:43 a.m., and 10:10 a.m. — the times the planes crashed into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and a field in Shanksville, Pa. For those of you in Pittsburgh, I hope you will visit the tree and the Fence, read Jim's poem and reflect on the events that occurred nine years ago. 

No matter where you are, and especially as we mark the Jewish high holidays and the festive Eid ul-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, I hope, too, that you will reflect on our values and our commitment to tolerance and mutual respect.


Jared L. Cohon

Internal Communications